Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin F-35A in flight.

European F-35 Assembly Center Proposed

Feb. 21, 2023
Lockheed and Northrop Grumman are studying a partnership with Rheinmetall to establish an F-35 center fuselage integrated assembly line in Germany.

F-35 partners Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman agreed to collaborate with Rheinmetall AG to expand manufacturing capabilities for the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program in Europe. Specifically, they have identified the possibility of a second Integrated Assembly Line (IAL) for F-35 center fuselage structures in Germany.

No schedule for establishing the new line was announced. “The center fuselage IAL is recognized as a state-of-the-art facility supported by technologies exclusive to Northrop Grumman, seamlessly blending automation with our expertise in aerospace tooling,” according to Northrop’s Glenn Masukawa, vice president and F-35 program manager. “Engaging with Rheinmetall demonstrates our commitment to collaborate with international partners to manufacture advanced aircraft.

Rheinmetall AG is a Dusseldorf-based automotive and military systems manufacturer and supplier.

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is a single-engine, Stealth-enabled aircraft designed for deployment for ground attack and combat, and available in three variants. Last March, the German Defense Ministry selected 35 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft to replace its current fleet of PA-200 Tornado fighter jets by 2030. The U.S. State Dept. later authorized the sale of the jets, which Germany explained was planned in part to achieve unity with other NATO members deploying the F-35, and to present a “credible deterrent” against Russia.

Other NATO member nations operating or preparing to deploy F-35 fighters include Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom. Unaligned Switzerland and aspiring NATO member Finland also plan to incorporate the aircraft to their defense forces.

Lockheed is the F-35 program leader, and program principal partner Northrop Grumman is the manufacturer of the center fuselage and wing skins. Northrop also develops, produces, and maintains sensor systems, avionics, and aircraft and training software.

“The F-35 program will continue to strengthen our strategic partnership with key industry partners for years to come,” stated Lockheed’s Mike Shoemaker, vice president of F-35 Customer Programs. “The F-35 center fuselage production in Germany will be vital to meet the growing global demand for F-35s, which play a vital role in 21st century security.”

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